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As a senior having taken many, many courses at UCLA across several departments—and, as a transfer, having taken many courses at other schools too—I can say with certainty that Dr. Melissa Bilal is one of the best professors I have ever had. If you have the chance to take this class (or another) with Professor Bilal, you should jump on it!
This class was wonderfully engaging, with musical course topics that covered the Mediterranean region with scholarly precision and interdisciplinary breadth. Although most students would shirk at having to take a 3 hour evening class, this one was spectacular—most of the time, it flew by because of how much lively conversation was taking place. Professor Bilal always makes sure to affirm and expand upon students comments, as well as encourage us to work with and talk with one another.
A little bit about what the class looked like: we each signed up for a day to give a presentation on one of the readings, and basically got to lead half of that class session. Then we would have a discussion led by Prof. Bilal for the second half of class after a generous break. We had reading responses due each week a couple days before class, and they were pretty straightforward and open-ended. Only about half of the students in the class were Ethno majors. The students that weren't Ethno majors always had amazing things to offer, though—as an open upper div elective, a great synergy of students from Comp Sci to Asian American studies were in the class, and it was super doable for them the whole time. Prof Bilal always made sure to see that every student had the resources they need to be successful, and she was more than prepared every class session.
Her support also extends far beyond the class. She has helped me so much when it comes to graduate school and scholarships, and I wouldn't be where I am today without Dr. Bilal's kindness and passion for supporting students. This is one of the classes I always talk about when people outside of UCLA ask me about my favorite classes, and is one I'm sure to remember for years to come because of Dr. Bilal's support. Whoever gets to be her students in the future are super lucky to have her!